Blame the Bird Seed

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Posted by @Chillybean on
Feeding the birds brings much to our lives. We see and learn from these beauties in a way we wouldn't otherwise. This joy may create some unexpected yard work.

In my earlier idea, I wrote about the bird seed called thistle. The small black seed sold for finches is not actually a thistle, but Nyjer. Just as I completed the idea, I thought of the plants that have germinated from bird seed. Some did it without any help, but others were sown by a little Squinney. ("Squinney" is a nickname for the Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel we have in our area.) They do not plant seed as we would; they are storing them for future use. It is believed that they forget about these caches, and if conditions are favorable, they will germinate. One year we caught the fellow harvesting from one of his plantings.
Thumb of 2015-08-27/Chillybean/09e5b1

Our family has fed the birds for years. We began with whatever seed mix we found in the store. Knowing the birds better, we now buy what they prefer. Besides the Nyjer for finches, we get millet for ground feeding sparrows and Mourning Doves; black oil sunflower seed for Cardinals, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers and Mourning Doves; and Safflower on occasion when the Grackles get to be too much. This is eaten by Cardinals, Grosbeaks and Mourning Doves. Yes, Mourning Doves eat any and all kinds of seed. This bird and others in the dove family do not have a specialized bill to break open the shells, so they eat the seeds whole.

Unlike imported Nyjer, which is heat treated to prevent germination, these seeds are not. Many are grown within the United States.

Besides the seeds the squinneys plant, I have fallen sunflower seed that is beginning to sprout under the feeders. The Black-oil Sunflower seed is either a cultivar of the Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) or a hybrid. In our experience with the black oil sunflower seed, we've had both large and small headed sunflowers growing. Most often, it is a giant variety that towers over me.

Proso Millet (Panicum miliaceum) has germinated in the platform feeders when there are rains and I do not look at the feeders for a few days. It resembles grass, so it can be in the lawn, but I do not notice.

Perfect weather conditions (a wet spring with a dry summer) will cause buried Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) to germinate, thrive, and go to seed. This plant resembles thistle. You do not want to step on this barefoot, or try to collect the seed without gloves.
Thumb of 2015-08-27/Chillybean/18dc5d

A few measures that can help:
1. Minimize seed on the ground, especially in the spring. But if you want to attract migrating sparrows, such as Harris's, Clay-colored, Savannah, you might be missing an opportunity for these visitors. Some prefer eating off the ground.
2. During the growing season, fill platform feeders enough to last only a day or two. Shells build up, leaving a nice growing medium, so keep the platforms cleaned out. This is good practice to prevent bird disease, too.
3. Find a tray that can be attached under the hopper or hanging feeders to catch the seeds. If you use a mix, some birds will seek out their favorite seeds and push others out.
4. You could stop feeding the birds in the spring, but some may move on. Many song birds still eat seed even when insects are around. Some only catch insects for their young and others are vegetarians, such as the finches.
5. If the location of sprouting seed is one you can live with, let it grow. Not only have these fed squinneys and goldfinches, but we've also seen orioles and wrens hopping around the flower heads, gleaning insects.

These are our experiences with the different seeds. I am thinking ahead to next year, and I wonder how that millet will do in the vegetable garden. Do what is best for your situation and enjoy the birds!

Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Being a bird watcher since early childhood wild birds are what cheers my day !. by hampartsum Sep 22, 2015 1:06 PM 6
Good info! by Shell Sep 22, 2015 6:56 AM 2
Untitled by Shell Sep 21, 2015 6:26 PM 0
Squinny/Grinny by crittergarden Sep 21, 2015 1:38 PM 1
Volunteer sunflowers from birdseed by MaryE Sep 21, 2015 10:50 AM 2

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